Advantages of Online Estate Planning
Estate planning is something that a lot of people don’t really relish. Aside from all the confusing laws and the unavoidable estate taxes, the thought of dying is not exactly a welcome topic. For those in the prime of their lives, how to advance in their chosen career and the challenges of starting a family are much more important than the thought of dying which seems like a distant possibility.
However, it’s a fact that we have no control over when our “dying day” is going to be. Morbid as it may sound we can go next month, next week, tomorrow, or even thirty minutes from now. This is why you have to make estate planning a priority once you already have measurable assets to leave to your loved ones. Estate planning also covers such things as making a healthcare proxy and a durable power of attorney in the event that you will be incapacitated to make decisions about your health and finances.
Being so busy living is no excuse for not doing estate planning. The Internet has made such a complicated task easier with its calculators and online forms. This is one of the main advantages of doing your estate planning online—the Internet does most of the heavy work for you. There are calculators that help you calculate the values of your assets as well as the estate taxes you can expect to pay. There are also online forms that you can fill-in for you to be able to create your last will and testament.
The other advantage of doing estate planning over the Internet is that it saves you a lot of money. Instead of paying an estate planner his or her professional fees, you can do most of the legwork with the help of online estate planning tools. The calculators are usually free but you will usually pay a small fee to use an online will, a healthcare proxy, and a durable power of attorney. But these are way cheaper than what you would pay if you hired a pro to do it for you.
Another advantage of do-it-yourself estate planning is that there are numerous resources you can find online to help you. If you are patient enough to search and find information that will apply to your state, you will find the Internet to be a virtual gold mine. Best of all, most of these sites tell you what you need to know without asking you to pay for it.
Disadvantages of Online Estate Planning
Despite the numerous advantages that estate planning over the Internet can give, you can only go so far with it. No matter how convenient it may seem, there are limitations on the things that you can do online, especially in something as important as estate planning.
The first drawback of online estate planning is that you fill in the blanks of pre-prepared forms. While this might sound easier, the language of an online will is already tailored to convey a certain message which might not be exactly what you want to say. If this is the case and you still choose to follow an online will, you might be unconsciously following the pre-fabricated will instead of your wishes.
Another disadvantage is that the online forms may not be up-to-date. It may not also be applicable to your state. There are websites that may not have reflected the recent changes to estate law. These kinds of mistakes can invalidate your will.
Closely related to this is the fact that you are more prone to mistakes if you fill out these forms on your own. Unless you are a legal professional or have thorough and technical knowledge about these matters, you will find it difficult to determine if the legal jargon reflects what you want to say. Remember that if your will is riddled with mistakes, it becomes easier to contest by other interested parties or worse, it could be invalidated.
When your will gets thrown out, the laws in your state on intestate succession, take over. What you have stated in your last will and testament will not have a bearing anymore. In short, if your will gets invalidated even on a mere technicality, some of the people you want to benefit from your estate might not get a share in it.
To Plan your Estate Online or Not
It is true that online estate planning is convenient and affordable. It can be done right in the comfort of your own home, cutting out the necessity of meeting with an estate planning professional. However, this form of estate planning is for those who don’t have a lot of assets, don’t have complicated affairs, and don’t have beneficiaries who are going to be wrangling over what’s left of their estate. In a nutshell, those with very simple cases can make use of online forms for estate planning.
However, it would not be a very good idea to do estate planning online if your case is a bit more complicated. You would be better off getting the help of a professional if one or all of the following conditions apply: You have a sizable amount of assets; had multiple marriages; are married and have minor children; are married and have a disabled or special adult child who depends on you for support; are responsible for the custody and care of your grandchildren; or are in a gay relationship. You should also get the help of a legal professional if you have your own business; you live in the United States but are citizens of another country; or if you anticipate that someone will contest your will. Of course, if the online will does not suit your needs, you’re better off having a pro draft your will rather than using an online form in an attempt to save money.
In these situations, the peace of mind you will get that your loved ones will receive their fair share of your estate is enough to hire a professional estate planner to draft your will for you from scratch instead of relying of an online will.
Websites to Help in your Online Estate Planning
Here are some resources that will help you successfully do estate planning online:
Estate Planning Information. In these websites, you will get to understand what estate planning is; the definitions for terms like wills, trusts, living wills, and special powers of attorney; and strategies that will help make a seemingly complicated task simpler and more understandable.
Estate Planning Calculators. These websites will help you estimate your estate taxes so you can plan the distribution of your estate accordingly.
Online Wills. These are websites that allow you to make your own will online. Some of them offer guarantees, some don’t. You’ll usually have to pay some amount for using their pre-prepared will.
Information about Living Trusts. A trust is a document you create when you are alive. It transfers ownership of your assets to the trust but you still retain control of it. The biggest advantage of creating a trust is that when you’re dead, the property left through the trust won’t have to go through probate court. To learn more about trusts, read the information given on the links below:
Information about Living Will and Healthcare Proxy. In case medical illness incapacitates you to make decisions about your health, you want to designate a person who will make them for you. You may also want to outline your wishes ahead of time through a living will.
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